WILMETTE – What began as a pop-up store out of a garage twice a year has evolved into Share, a stylish shop and event space in downtown Wilmette.
“I’ve converted this space so many times for different events. That is the fun part — just imagining,” said owner Karen O’Sullivan.
Located over Norm’s Car Wash, Share is tucked away from street level in an expansive room with large windows facing west toward the Metra stop. Light pours into the space, which serves as a retail shop, private event area and the home base for O’Sullivan’s design services.
Originally from the East Coast, O’Sullivan attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, where she honed her chops as a stylist.
“It was a fantastic experience because everyone who worked there was in the fashion industry,” she said. She moved to Chicago with her husband about 20 years ago, eventually landing in Wilmette to raise the couple’s three children.
The idea of opening her own spot has been with O’Sullivan since she was a child, when she loved to play store.
“For me what is exciting is creating an experience,” O’Sullivan said.
Her eye for good design is on full display. At the center of the room is a large table with chairs for people to gather, such as the book club that meets there regularly for lunch. At one end is a comfortable sitting area with a couch, chairs and coffee table. The aesthetic is clean lines, white and grey colors — a definite beachy feel — reminding visitors that Lake Michigan is just blocks away.
Shopping occurs along the perimeter of the space, where home decor, lifestyle and gift items line the shelves.
“I work long and hard to find things that people haven’t seen before,” O’Sullivan explained.
Many of the items she finds on trips to the East Coast, or scouring the internet, such as the large sheets that are water resistant and can be used at the beach, a picnic or as a tablecloth.
There are also plenty of unique gifts as well as vases, serving dishes and an eclectic mix of well-curated items that caught O’Sullivan’s fancy.
“It really is a little bit of everything but I like to tell a story,” she said.
The merchandise changes regularly and tends to have a seasonal bent. “I think it adds to the fun to see what is new and different,” she said.
O’Sullivan confesses to a love of gift giving and wrapping — all her items are artfully wrapped and donned with her signature tassel. Everything is priced to sell, with plenty of items to choose from at the $20 and under price point.
The space itself is constantly changing as well. O’Sullivan says she regularly re-arranges the furniture and will do as much — or as little — for private events. Sometimes she just hands over the keys, but frequently she’ll decorate the space, arrange for caterers (she has a kitchen) and do custom orders.
“I love using Lawrence Deans. They do a fun custom cookie for events,” she said of the Wilmette bakery on Green Bay Road.
She offers design services that can include as much as a complete re-do, but she tends to keep it relatively simple. “I really think of myself more as a refresher. I help people take things they have and make it fresh,” she said.
Share has been open for a year but O’Sullivan said it’s been a long, soft opening as people slowly discover her business. Her goal is to create a space where people make connections.
“The whole concept is more than just shopping. It’s about bringing people together,” she said.
Share is located at 1222 Washington Court, 2nd Floor, Wilmette and open Tuesday through Friday 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. For more information go to www.sharewilmette.com.